BitTorrent Chat taps P2P network for secure, NSA-proof messaging

With a steady stream of revelations keeping the NSA spying scandal in the news, it's no surprise that privacy and security have become hot topics among Internet users. If the developers behind the BitTorrent protocol have their way, folks will soon have a secure medium in which to discuss the NSA's unsavory practices—and pretty much anything else. BitTorrent Chat promises secure instant messaging over an encrypted peer-to-peer network. Messages will never be stored on a centralized server, and the software will be free to use for all.

As this post on the BitTorrent Blog explains, the chat client is currently a "pre-alpha experiment." Prospective users can apply to be part of the private alpha, and they're encouraged to provide suggestions and feedback. The developers want the community's help to "build something sick." Unfortunately, there's no word on how long it will take before the software is ready for prime time.

CNet spoke to Christian Averill, BitTorrent's communications chief, who told the site that the chat software is similar to BitTorrent Sync, a private file sharing tool released earlier this year. The goal is to make BitTorrent Chat interoperable with other IM clients eventually. Mobile apps are planned, as well.

Averill declined to comment on what might happen if the NSA requested back-door access BitTorrent Chat; he's "not familiar with specifics of NSA programs." However, he said the team is focused on making BitTorrent Chat a "durable" service that "respects user privacy and has real consumer benefits." It will be interesting to see if they succeed—and whether people trust the client to keep their online discussions safe from snooping eyes.

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